Wednesday 22 April 2015

Video Portraits of Lady Gaga - Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson - Video Portraits of Lady Gaga

Shot in October 2013 and premiered in November 2013 in the Louvre, these works are the product of a collaboration between the Louvre, Robert Wilson and Lady Gaga, based on three classic works belonging to the permanent collection of the Louvre Museum: Mademoselle Caroline Riviere, by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres (1806); The Death of Marat, by Jacques Louis David (1793); The Head of Saint John the Baptist by Andrea Solari (1507).

The collaboration began after Wilson received a phone call from the singer, saying she'd like to discuss projects they might work on together. Wilson chose themes from the museum's collection, all dealing with death. 'She's sort of serious, not your ordinary pop star', he explained. They shot the videos in a London studio over three days, Gaga standing for 14 or 15 hours at a time. Wilson was very impressed with her stamina and emotional intelligence.


Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere, by Ingres. A large-format video references this painting, which is the portrait of a 15-year old young woman who passed away soon after the completion. Gaga managed to capture both the young woman's dignified beauty and the knowledge that she was about to die.


The slow-motion looped video is ever so slightly animated by tiny blinks and other small movements, such as a bird flying through the scene.
I read in the iKathimerini review that Lady Gaga had to stand still for 9 hours for this particular video. She was in such distress that at one point she started crying. But, nothing else moved - she continued posing as directed. If you look closely enough at the photograph above you will see the tears running down her face.


 The Death of Marat by Jacques Louis David is referenced in another large-format video: no animation this time, but the light and colours changed slowly, almost imperceptibly. As in David's painting, there is dignity and grandeur: Marat seems heroic while the circumstances of the death are kept precise, as recorded by the police.

Marat was killed by a fellow revolutionary who felt disillusioned by the direction the Revolution was taking. While taking his bath, Marat was reading the letter the young woman had sent him and was about to sign the petition she had handed him when she struck him down.

Holding the petition in one hand and a quill in the other.

Eleven video screens around the room depicted the same subject in different stages:


The Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Charger by Andrea Solario

The singer's bearded face was filmed and was superimposed over the painted head of the martyr.

'She would look at the image and after a while she would look at her face in a mirror and something happened and I would shoot her', said Wilson.

Each portrait is unique, due to the size of the slash at her throat, her lips being parted or closed, her eyelids fluttering or her expression changing.





  1. Your description of these films reminded me of the moving film by Bill Viola which was shown at the Encounters exhibition at the National Gallery some years ago. The Ingres-inspired piece above strikes me especially as something really wonderful.

    1. I was looking forward to the exhibition and it did not disappoint, Olga. The Ingres was my favourite too, but I also liked the Marat-inspired one.